With the exception of Israel, Saudi Arabia is considered America’s strongest ally in the Middle East. During the first Gulf War in 1990, the Saudis provided 100,000 of its own troops to fight alongside U.S. service members.
Since that time, in what’s been called Operation Southern Watch, America has maintained a 5,000-troop presence in Saudi Arabia to enforce no-fly zones and maintain stability.
In 2010, the United States made the biggest arms sale in its history — an estimated $60.5 billion in weapons to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Yet the Saudis continue to make religious raids reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition, even using a specialized police force for this purpose — the mutawa, or the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice.
This week, Fox News reported another such raid, which interrupted the private prayer of 53 Ethiopian workers and arrested them for practicing Christianity.
Fox News’s Benjamin Weinthal wrote:
“Nations that wish to be a part of the responsible nations of the world must see the protection of religious freedom and the principles of reason as an essential part of the duty of the state,” U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., told FoxNews.com. Fortenberry sits on the Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East.
The mixed group of men and women was seized in a private residence in the city of Dammam, the capital of the wealthy oil province in Eastern Arabia, and Saudi authorities charged three Christian leaders with seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity. The latest crackdown on Christianity in the ultra-fundamental Islamic country comes on the heels of a brutal 2011/2012 incarceration and torture of 36 Ethiopian Christians, and drew a sharp rebuke from a U.S. lawmaker.
What occurred this month in Dammam is just one example of a continuous series of such arrests, which result in imprisonment, beatings and, in the case of women, sexual torture.
“The U.S. government does not raise its voice in protest,” Nina Shea, the director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told Fox News, adding that America’s failure to push the Saudis to change their behavior “has taken the backseat to oil and the war on terror. The Saudis are playing a double game — cooperating with the war on terror and working against the war on terror campaign.”
Beginning Sunday, John Kerry, America’s new secretary of state, will embark on an 11-day tour of nine nations, including Saudi Arabia. What are the chances he’ll bring up the plight of the 53 Ethiopian men and women arrested as Christians? Not much.
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